Thursday 17th May 2012
In some ways I was lucky to be in this pub on this evening. I had planned to visit it but I was late on my intended schedule when I walked in to the Mother Road brew pub earlier. However they only had two beers on offer and I drank a half of each and was on my way again. But not before I had spoken to Urs Riner, their brewer, who told me that Firestone-Walker brewery (Paso Robles, California), were staging a promotion in the Hops on Birch pub that included cask beer. That caused me to get a wriggle on and I was soon standing at their bar.
It is nice to be in on to something at the beginning and I was in the case of this pub. It had opened just over a month earlier on 6th April and certainly filled a niche for beer drinkers in Flagstaff. This university town has six brew-pubs but only Flagstaff Brewing offers any beers from other breweries from out of town. Hops on Birch fills a gap in the market.
It is the brainchild of Kyle Merrit and Tom Smith who had a good idea of their perfect bar and have created it here. Their slogan is "Good Beer for Good People". The more I think about it the more I agree with the sentiment as bad people don't deserve good beer. It was actually coined by journalist Hunter S. Thompson, author and Rolling Stone columnist.
As a taste of what they normally sell, please have a look at what was on offer on the evening I visited: Cosmic Brewing (made at Mogollon Brewing, Flagstaff, AZ) Full Moon Porter, Dirty Blonde, Pecan Nut Brown. Four Peaks of Scottsdale, AZ were represented by 8th Street Pale Ale (4.5%), Arizona Peach Ale (4.0%), Sunbru (5.2%), D-Dub Porter (6.2%) and Oatmeal Stout (5.0%).
There was also Nimbus (Tucson, AZ) Dirty Blonde (the second beer with that name), Shiner (Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner, TX) Bock, Odells (Fort Collins, CO) Cutthroat Porter (5.1%), Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) Summerfest (5.0%), Boulder Beer (Boulder, CO) Flashback (6.8%), Left Hand (Longmont, CO) Milk Stout (6.0%), Stone (Escondido, CA) Vanilla Bean Porter (5.9%) and last, but definitely not least, Rogue (Newport, OR) Old Crustacean Barley Wine (11.5%) that was only sold in half pints (Imperial).
To all these add Angry Orchard Cider produced by the Boston Beer Company. There were a number of International brands also available.
Then of course there was the "Firestone-Walker Tap Take-over" where three of their beers were available at promotional prices and there was merchandise on sale.
The three beers were Firestone-Walker (Paso Robles, CA) Double Barrel Ale (5.0%), Double Jack IPA (9.5%) and Solace (4.8%). Finally, and the reason I was here, was Firestone-Walker Firkin Ale, served from a cask on the bar. There was no abv shown on the cask label; the barman thought it was their normal IPA, which weighs in at a very respectable 7.5%. I wasn't worried about that as I ordered my second pint. It was an absolutely magnificent beer; a real West Coast IPA in superb condition.
I wished I could stay longer but I had a train to catch, the Southwest Chief, at 20.57. When there is only one train a day you have to make sure you don't miss it! In reality, it was about twenty minutes late which is forgivable I suppose, especially when you consider it had already travelled 1,699 miles from its starting point, Chicago, left at 15.00 the previous day.
Flagstaff has six breweries and a fantastic bar and is a great place to visit.
Hops on Birch, 22E Birch Avenue, Flagstaff, Arizona. 86001.
Open: Daily 13.00-02.00
The pub is five minutes from local buses, long distance buses and the Amtrak Rail station.